No. 9 Duke men's basketball cruises past La Salle behind Proctor, Stewart's productive scoring nights

Tyrese Proctor (5) lays the ball in under heavy pressure from La Salle defenders.
Tyrese Proctor (5) lays the ball in under heavy pressure from La Salle defenders.

A quieter-than-usual Cameron Indoor Stadium did little to get in the way of Blue Devil dominance.

On a Tuesday night in Durham, in the lead-up to Thanksgiving break, the ninth-ranked Blue Devils tipped off against La Salle for their second game in the Blue Devil Challenge. Behind a steady star performance from sophomore point guard Tyrese Proctor, Duke took off for the holiday with a 95-66 win against the visiting Explorers.

"I was really happy with the game tonight," said head coach Jon Scheyer afterward. "We have a lot to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving."

Freshman guard Caleb Foster’s performance against Michigan State a week prior had The Athletic’s Brendan Marks calling the Harrisburg, N.C., native Duke’s “breakout star.” Foster tallied 18 points in Chicago, along with three rebounds and a block. Back at Cameron Indoor, however, the freshman fell short of the standard he set for himself against the Spartans, shooting 1-for-4 and missing two 3-pointers in a row before being subbed off in the first half.

Last Tuesday was about Foster, but this one was about Tyrese Proctor. The Bob Cousy Award candidate kept Duke (4-1) in control with a level head and consistent game that made up for the occasional follies of his teammates. He banked two threes in the first half and totaled a team-leading 14 points, while also orchestrating the action on the court from his position at point guard. By the end of the game, he had a career-high 22 points.

"Tyrese was terrific tonight ... It was his best game he's played this year, maybe period," Scheyer said.

The native Australian was also the one to head Duke’s efforts charging to the basket. With 3-pointers and jumpers in general not falling through the net, the Blue Devils instead relied on ball movement and scrappiness in the paint. In the early minutes of the second period, Proctor performed his best example of this: He sprinted through a fast break, jumped and pushed in a layup despite a powerfully attempted block from a La Salle (4-1) player far bigger than his own wiry 6-foot-5 stature. The Cameron Crazies went wild.

"I was just trying to be aggressive," Proctor said. "I think when I get in the paint I can make the right reads and  find my teammates, or give myself a bucket."

Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski didn’t seem all that comfortable on the court in his first run-around before head coach Jon Scheyer sent in graduate center Ryan Young to take his place. The first sign that the Preseason First-Team All-American might not be on his best day was his missed free throw in the first moments of the matchup, despite holding a 77.1% success rate through his career so far. Moments later, Filipowski let La Salle’s Rokas Jocius stop him from slamming a dunk, and for the rest of the half, the New York native landed just one field goal.

"He just didn't have that same look that he normally has. And you know, his ankle's swollen. And he's playing through it."

But he started off the second half far better than he did the first, converting a pass from senior guard Jeremy Roach into a breezy dunk just moments after the buzzer kicked off the period. In the same minute, he swished a three from the very top of the arc. Then he threw up a shot and earned an and-one, which he made seamlessly. All at once, he was back.

He also got in a little bit of foul trouble. He clinched his third mark just after making his dunk, putting him on thin ice in the defense department — not enough for Scheyer to keep Filipowski off the court, though. The decision worked out in his favor, as the Wilbraham and Monson product got involved in every facet of Duke’s success in the second half. He went 2-for-2 on triples and 5-for-5 on field goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period.

"To respond mid game — what he did in that second half, I'm proud of that effort," Scheyer said. "We're keeping him in there." He added, laughing "Let it be known."

Together with his sophomore classmates, forward Mark Mitchell also took control against La Salle, tallying 12 points and snagging a handy five rebounds as well as three assists. Where the Kansas City, Kan., native fell short was in free throws — he landed just two of six — but he made up for it with his generally aggressive defensive presence that helped quiet the Explorers.

"I thought Mark had his best game, [he] was just really efficient attacking the basket," Scheyer said.

With sophomores Proctor, Filipowski and Mitchell setting the tone, the rookie class decided to get in on the action. Scheyer sent Sean Stewart and Jared McCain onto the court and they wreaked a havoc of their own; in a two-minute period, the former slammed his second dunk of the game while the latter landed back-to-back threes off assists from Proctor and Filipowski. Stewart went on to take center stage as he slammed 14 more points into La Salle’s net.

"It starts with his energy. He brings in great energy," Scheyer said. "He's got so much room to grow ...  he's at such an early stage of his development as a player. But he can do something right now ... his ability to rebound, his ability to protect the ball, his versatility guarding the rim."

Scheyer took advantage of his team’s depth on all fronts, with the exception of the point guard position, which he left mostly in Proctor’s hands. Until, with Duke holding a comfortable 20-point lead, he let loose on the “Freshmen Four.” With a little over five minutes left to play, Scheyer sent in the whole rookie squad, average age raised only by junior Jaylen Blakes. Foster finally got to show off his moves at point, handling the dribbling position well while Stewart took the lead on scoring. Then TJ Power put his name on the scoreboard too, snagging a tough steal that he sandwiched with back-to-back threes before landing his third triple just seconds later.

Up next for Duke is a 6 p.m. date Friday with Southern Indiana to close out the Blue Devil Challenge.

Sophie Levenson profile
Sophie Levenson | Sports Managing Editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 120th volume.


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